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Expectant mothers cross the river to get COVID information from Anganwadi Centers

Story

By Chandrika Patnaik

14 September 2021

Anchoring COVID response efforts at Anganwadi Centers helped Gram Vikas reach young and expectant mothers from remote, hard-to-reach Adivasi habitations with vital information on coronavirus infection and safety measures.

Awareness campaign of young mothers and adolescent children in the Anganwadi Centre.

Photograph by Mini Nayak

The Anganwadi Center at Puriasahi village caters to five other remote tribal habitations. Expectant and young mothers from remote tribal habitations of Babanasahi, Sindurabada, Batasahi, Ambasahi, and Bhaliasahi come here to get health check-ups, food supplements, and other ICDs services. Located in Patrapur block, not all of these habitats can be reached by a road. For instance, people in Babanasahi need to cross the Mahendra Tanya river to reach Puriasahi.

Jhunu Sabara, 25, is expecting her second child in six months. Due to no road connectivity from her village Babanasahi, she crosses the Parshuram Mahendra Tanaya river by foot carrying her 3-year-old daughter to reach the Puriasahi Anganwadi Center. When the pandemic broke out, this Center was the only source of awareness and information for mothers like her.

Since 1990, Gram Vikas has been working in Buratal, Ankuli, and Tumba Panchayats of Patrapur block in Ganjam district. The trust built with the community over the years helped in quick mobilisation of the community to action. The team could assuage the fears of the community, tackle vaccine hesitancy, and convince them about the importance of following COVID appropriate behaviours.

In the wake of the second wave of coronavirus in April 2021, Gram Vikas anchored the COVID-19 response work at the Puriasahi Anganwadi Center. Women with children under 5 years of age visit the centre to immunise their children against BCG, DPT, Polio and Measles.

Gram Vikas staff regularly visited the centres to speak about the importance of social distancing, wearing a mask, using sanitiser, and checking the temperature of expectant and young mothers with children visiting the center for health check-up and immunisation.

Sushama Pradhan, Anganwadi worker at the center feels the trust built over the years by the organisation in the region has helped mobilise the community. “The efforts of Gram Vikas staff in mobilising and training village volunteers during the second wave has helped fight COVID better in these areas. We do not need to do much, honestly. Since the pandemic began last year, Gram Vikas has organised dozens of awareness programmes and meetings regularly on tackling COVID-19 virus in Patrapur block. Since the vaccine became available at our block, Gram Vikas has been mobilising people from all the three Gram Panchayats to take the vaccine.”

Expectant and nursing mothers ensure they get health check-ups done on a regular basis at the centre. Despite the pandemic, parents are determined to continue their children’s vaccinations.

Langi Bhuyan travelled three kilometers to the Anganwadi Centre from Bhaliasahi village in Tumba GP, with her seven-month-old son, says, “I come here to immunise my baby from diseases. I also do my health check-up here. We have been getting a lot of information at the center on how to keep ourselves and our families safe from coronavirus through regular campaigns every month. These programmes teach us how to wash our hands properly with soap, how to wear a mask and how much distance to keep from others when outside our homes. I thoroughly enjoy the sessions here.”

Inaccessible and hard to reach areas of Tumba and Buratal have 33 Anganwadi Centers while Ankuli Panchayat has 25 Anganwadi Centers.

Sushama says that expectant mothers and those with small children are eager to attend these programmes and take what they learn back to their villages. “Since it has been raining heavily over the past week, Jhunu will not be able to cross the river as the river is swelling. She is an eager participant of the awareness sessions. Whatever she learns here, she practices with her friends and neighbours back in her village.”

In August 2021, Gram Vikas organised an awareness campaign on COVID-19 protocol to be followed for adolescent girls from villages in the three Gram Panchayats. Gram Vikas also distributed masks and sanitisers.

As part of COVID-19 response work in the block, Gram Vikas has mobilised 67 health workers and volunteers in 59 villages in the Patrapur block. So far, 1055 eligible people in the 18-44 years age group and 1290 people in the 44 years and above age group have taken the first dose of the vaccine.

As of August 2021, we have reached out to 53,000 households in 140 Gram Panchayats in 11 districts of Odisha through our COVID-19 response efforts.

Expectant and nursing mothers come to the Anganwadi Centre for regular health check-ups.

Photograph by Mini Nayak

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Reporting by Gautam Rout and photographs by Mini Nayak. Ganesh Chakravarthi edited the story.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chandrika Patnaik leads on content production in the Communications team.

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